Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart


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Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

"The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart."

As the British colonized the areas of Nigeria inhabited by the Ibo, they brought with them their new religion of Christianity, which sought to overrun the traditional animist way of life that had endured in the area for centuries. The new religion was treated with skepticism early on, but the lure of the wealth that British traders brought into the city, along with the support of the British government and judicial system eventually displaced Ibo society completely. Although many historians make the assertion that the tribes’ conversion to Christianity by English missionaries was responsible, even noble, the truth is that the fragmentation of Ibo culture was not for the love of God, but for the love of money and power.

For the colonialists, Christianity was used as an effective wedge between the Ibo and their land. They knew that without infiltration from the inside, the people of Umofia and surrounding villages would continue to rebel against British authority in the area. By introducing Christianity into the villages, and creating conflict amongst the natives, they were able to gain a foothold into the psyches of the tribespeople. Converted Christians, having been ostracized by the rest of their communities, were forced to rely on the British for support. The presence of natives loyal to the Queen gave the British blanket jurisdiction over the entire village, and the Royal administrative and judicial system could now enforce British law over the Ibo.
Although the argument can me made that these effects were merely byproducts of a noble effort on the part of the Europeans to bring the Christian faith to Africa, more evidence suggests that the real motivation was money, not religion. The colonists had much to gain from a colonized Africa, including abundant natural resources and workers to tend farms and chop trees for the Queen. As the proverb goes, “Before the White Man came, we had the land and they had the Bible. Now we have the Bible and they have the land.

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The fact is, although some missionaries may have had an honest intention to bring “salvation” to the Ibo, British policy in colonizing Africa tends to suggest that the real reason for introducing Christianity was to make the natives easier to subvert, all the while giving the operation an air of legitimacy. A very telling detail could be that the District Commissioner, when deciding a title for his memoir, did not decide to use the word “salvation” or even “conversion”, rather he chose to title it the “Pacification of the Tribes of the Lower Niger.”


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